As Michigan born rocker Wayne Static makes a jaunt through the Midwest, he stops to play a homecoming of sorts in front of family and friends in Flint.

Industrial groove nu-metal king of ‘Evil Disco’ Wayne Static brought his Wisconsin Death Trip 15th Anniversary Tour to the Machine Shop last Thursday night to a packed house full of enthusiastic Static-X fans. Opening up for him was the post-grunge hard rockers Smile Empty Soul.

Hailing from Santa Clarita, California, Smile Empty Soul formed in 1998 while original members, singer/guitarist Sean Danielsen and bassist Ryan Martin, were still in high school. Their current drummer, Jake Kilmer, joined the band later in 2006.

Smile Empty Soul released their self-titled album in 2003. In the US, the album peaked at #2 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart and #94 on the Billboard 200 chart. Their début single from this album, Bottom of a Bottle, peaked at #7 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart, #8 on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and #107 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under Hot 100 singles chart. In 2005, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album as gold. With its sophisticated smooth writing, powerful guitars, and forceful vocals, this album is their most successful.

In 2013, the band released their sixth full-length album, Chemicals. Danielsen stated the album has a “half live feel and half studio feel.” Another interesting thing about this album is that Danielsen, Martin, and Kilmer designed and painted the album cover. The band filmed the video for the album’s first single, False Alarm, at the Machine Shop on October 4th, 2013 which was also their official CD release party for the Chemicals album.

The band has been out touring in support of Chemicals. However, most recently, Martin took a leave from the band due to himself and his wife expecting the birth of their first child. Phil Lipscomb, of Taproot, is filling in for Martin on the band’s current tour with Static.

Incense (which smelled like Nag Champa) filled the air while fog crept off the stage as Smile Empty Soul opened up with Black & Blue (off Chemicals). These guys are tight and played in synch with each other playing every note as good as the recorded version.

Danielsen took a moment and stated “What’s up Flint? How ya’ guys doing?” then the band broke into my personal favorite track, Don’t Ever Leave (off Consciousness). The audience sang along to every word. They raised their hands up, in unison, pointing their index fingers toward the stage singing, “Hey… I love it when you’re spitting in my face. The way you scream when you’re breaking all my things. I love the way you put me in my place. Don’t ever leave me alone.”

Without a break, the band segued into the title track from the Chemicals album then into Faker (off Consciousness). Kilmer took a moment and picked up his video camera to film the audience as they clapped and cheered.

Next up was Silhouettes (off Smile Empty Soul), another crowd favorite as they sang along to every word. Danielsen took a moment and introduced Lipscomb, of Taproot, to the crowd. It was obvious, by the crowd’s reaction, that they knew exactly who he was!

The band played Let Go and Warning (both of which are off 3’s) then segued into False Alarm (off Chemicals). Danielson took a moment to thank the crowd for their loyal support in coming out to see them during the numerous times they’ve played the Shop.

The band kicked into Bottom of a Bottle (off Smile Empty Soul). The place erupted into one big mosh pit as everyone screamed along to the song, “I do it for the drugs. I do it just to feel alive. I do it for the love that I get from the bottom of a bottle.” These guys play with the same raw intensity which helped make Nirvana such a great band.

Danielsen stated “Thanks to Kevin (Zink) and Craig (Zink) and everyone here for being so bad ass! Thanks to Tony (Labrie) and the Banana (101.5FM) for always supporting us” then they played Hard Biter (off 3’s). Danielsen thanked the crowd, once again, and then told everyone that they would be back in August to play Dirtfest. The guys shook a bunch of hands at the front of the stage then invited everyone to come back to the merch table to hang out with them.

Our photographer, Thom Seling, was on hand to catch the band in action. Here are his images.

Smile Empty Soul online:

48-year-old Wayne Richard Wells (AKA Wayne Static) grew up in Shelby, Michigan, where he played in his first band at the age of twelve. Also, while attending Shelby High School he and fellow classmates played in a band for their school dances.

Static moved to Chicago where Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) introduced him to drummer Ken Jay. He and Jay formed a short-lived band called Deep Blue Dream. Following the demise of Deep Blue Dream, Static and Jay joined the Chicago metal band Stygian and recorded a demo under the name Drill only to end up moving to Los Angeles, California in 1994 in search of new band members.

They met guitarist Koichi Fukuda and bassist Tony Campos, and Static-X was formed. Originally intending to call the band Wisconsin Death Trip, they decided the name was too long and changed it to Static-X.

The band signed a deal with Warner Bros. Records and released their debut album, Wisconsin Death Trip, in 1999. Static has said that the album title was taken from Michael Lesy’s 1973 book of the same name. The book contains a collection of 19th century photographs, mostly taken in the city of Black River Falls, by photographer Charles Van Schaick along with local news reports from the same period. The book highlights the unpleasant aspects of Midwestern rural life under the pressures of urbanization, disease, crime and mental illness.

Not only did the book inspire the album title, but it is also responsible for capturing the imaginations of the band. According to an interview Static did with, “[It’s] actually a book title that we stole. It’s been out of print for about 20 years. It’s a historical book about life in this small town in Wisconsin from 1890 to 1900. And it’s about everything that happened, but it focuses on people dying and how they died. And there are pictures of dead people as well as stuff about natural disasters and fires and stuff like that.”

In 1999, Wisconsin Death Trip peaked at #1 on the Top Heatseekers chart and #107 on the Billboard 200 chart. CMJ included the album in CMJ’s Loud Rock ’99 Top 5 and in its review said “Static-X’s industrial/metal hybrid uses a guitar sound that keeps its songs refreshingly large, loud and groovable.” In 2001, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album as platinum.

Years after its initial release, the album continues to be relevant in today’s world due in part to many of its tracks being utilized by game designers, film audio production teams, and star athletes. These songs have been used for the movies Torque, Valentine, Universal Soldier: The Return, and Bride of Chucky, for the video games Omega Boost, Street Skater 2, Duke Nukem: Time to Kill, Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes, Rock Band and Brutal Legend, and during the 2008 American Baseball League season, The Trance Is The Motion was used by American League All-Star and Cleveland Indians centerfielder Grady Sizemore as his entrance music.

In 2009, Campos and Fukuda left the band while Static started work on his Pighammer solo project. He released his début solo album Pighammer in 2011 and decided to reform Static-X in 2012. None of the original members would join him so his solo band ended up touring under the name Static-X. This band consisted of Brent Ashley on bass, Sean Davidson on drums and Ashes on guitar. Static took this incarnation out on the road for the Noise Revolution Tour, however the tour was cut short due to Static taking ill and requiring medical treatment.

In 2013, Static announced Static-X’s second break-up. According to Static, he disbanded Static-X due to disputes between himself and Campos over the right to the use of the Static-X name.

2014 commemorates the 15th anniversary of Wisconsin Death Trip. This platinum selling album is a fan favorite of Static-X fans everywhere and a staple in most nu-metal enthusiasts list of all-time favorite albums. As a thank-you to the fans, Static has decided to tour in celebration of the album’s anniversary and is playing the album in its entirety, as well as a few other hits during the encore.

Known for his unique hairstyle and signature ‘chintail’ beard, Static took the stage looking as he did back in 1999. His band is rounded out with Ashes on guitar, Frankie Sil on bass, and Bevan Davies on drums.

The band jumped head-on right into Push It with their dynamic stage presence. Static belted out his aggressive vocals while jamming away on his guitar. Sil stomped around the stage pounding out some massive bass riffs. Ashes strummed his guitar while making eye contact with everyone willing to exchange glances with him. Ashes seemed to be making a personal connection as if enticing everyone toward him. Davies pounded on every inch of his drum set with full brutal force. I’m surprised the drum set was still standing after the beating it took!

These guys owned the stage from the very first note. They seemed so comfortable together, it was as if they had played together their entire life. Neither had to pay attention to what the other was doing. They synched in unison and fit together as one well-maintained finely oiled machine. These guys can play! Without hesitation, the band segued right into I’m With Stupid.

Static’s wife, Tera Wray, glided onto the stage with shots for the band. It was simply as if she floated around the stage as an angel descending upon them. While the band downed their shots, Static stated “For all you fucking retards, this is my home state so thanks for coming out to a homecoming of sorts” then he downed his shot.

The band kicked into Bled for Days and had everyone in the Shop jumping, screaming and going nuts which continued as the band played Love Dump. A pit broke out as they played the intensely fast I Am then Static stated “Let’s get into the hardcore fuckin’ disco” as they segued into Otsegolation.

Static had the crowd waving their hands in the air in unison as they played Stem then stated “This next one goes out to all of you motherfuckers who are having a good time right here on the dance floor” as they played Sweat of the Bud.

“You guys are fucking awesome, let me tell ya. Every time I come to beautiful picturesque Flint, Michigan, I know it’s going to be a great show here at the wonderful Machine Shop because of people like you” stated Static right before they played Fix.

With its funky groove, Wisconsin Death Trip kept the momentum going while Sil and Ashes stomped around using every available inch of the stage even trading spots for a bit before stomping back to their rightful places. They even stepped up on the drum riser only to jump off of it.

Tera made her way back to the stage during The Trance Is the Motion. Here she spun around these glow stick type things as she danced along to the pulsating rhythmic sound of the band.

The main set ended with December, a song which Static originally wrote with his former band Deep Blue Dream. December is a slower track which finally gave the audience a chance to catch their breath. As the song finished, the audience knew they had heard Wisconsin Death Trip in its entirety and that it was time for the band to play their encore.

The band kept the train rolling along and quickly jumped right into Dirthouse (off Start a War), Assassins of Youth (off Pighammer), Destroyer (off Cannibal), The Only (off Shadow Zone), Cold (off Machine), and ended the night with Get To The Gone (off Machine). The audience kept the mosh pit going throughout the entire encore.

This was a night full of intense electronic-industrial influenced metal with heavy distortion, pulsating drum beats, pounding bass riffs, and fast-paced aggressive vocals! This was my first time experiencing Wayne Static live and I can see why he has such a loyal following. He is a true showman who owns the stage from the moment he first steps out onto it until long after he has left it. His band is top-notch and is as much fun to watch as they are to listen to.

Although Static is mesmerizing to watch (as the whole band truly is), I really enjoyed watching Sil play his bass. Sil spent a lot of time leaning forward and singing directly into the cell phones of people whom were recording the show. Sil leaned so close to them that he could have easily knocked their cell phones with his forehead.

These people definitely have a special moment to watch over-and-over again. I sure hope some of these videos show up on YouTube for the rest of us to enjoy.

Our photographer, Thom Seling, was on hand to catch the band in action. Here are his images.

Wayne Static online:

Article by Erik Heemsoth | All photos by Thom Seling


About The Author

Erik's interest in music began at an early age. In high school, he was the co-host of the underground metal show the Social Mutilation Hour, on 89.5 WAHS, under the name of Neurotik Erik. During this period of his life, he independently promoted shows under the name of Ding Dong Ditch Productions. Erik would rent out local VFW Halls, use space at Oakland Community College Auburn Hills Campus, or simply throw basement parties around the Detroit area. While at college at Ferris State University, he became head of the student run organization, Entertainment Unlimited, and continued to promote shows, but on a larger scale. He also helped start an underground magazine, 'Outpunk', where he interviewed bands and wrote music reviews. Additionally, Erik joined the staff at the Ferris State University Torch and wrote on a larger scale.

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